German Customs Officers Find Half a Tonne of Cocaine Aboard Bulker

Image courtesy Zoll

Published May 5, 2020 1:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a multiday operation, German customs authorities have seized half a tonne of cocaine from a bulker at the Port of Hamburg. 

A large-scale operation by the Hamburg Customs Investigation Office began early last week. Based on tips from international partners, the investigators targeted a Montenegrin-flagged bulk carrier traveling from Brazil via England to Hamburg. Authorities suspected that the 180-meter freighter was being used to smuggle narcotics into the EU.

When the ship entered Dutch waters, it was intercepted by Dutch maritime police and handed over to maritime units in Germany. German customs and federal police secured the freighter on its journey under the control of the Maritime Security Center in Cuxhaven, and the freighter anchored at a roadstead near the mouth of the Elbe on Thursday afternoon. Several customs boats stayed on patrol nearby to prevent any drugs from being thrown overboard. 

On Friday evening, the freighter transited up the Elbe to the Port of Hamburg. During this transit, shoreside customs officers secured the banks on both sides of the Elbe. The ship reached the port of Hamburg around midnight and officers began an immediate search. Police divers from Hamburg supported the operation by searching the ship's hull from the outside.

Early on Saturday morning, customs officers found about 500 kilograms of cocaine hidden behind access panels in an enclosed compartment. The drugs were already packed in waterproof bags. Additional sacks contained buoys and lines as well as a GPS transmitter. Customs police believe that the smuggler(s) planned to throw the cocaine overboard with the transmitter, and the drugs would be picked up by an accomplice in a boat.

Evidence on board led police to identify one suspect from among the crew. The 42-year-old man was arrested and brought before a judge on Sunday.